There’s Always a Silver Lining

Jul 5, 2010, 10:58 AM |

Because I was sucking wind so bad in my section ( 4 losses in a row) I was sitting at a table that was either kids under twelve or grumpy old codgers trying desperately to salvage some dignity after a  rather humiliating  performance in the first 5 rounds. I was  fortunate enough  to discover my opponent was of the older type. It just so happened that Dan Heisman was coaching some of the adults and one of the kids around me. After I finally broke a perfectly good losing streak, I struck up a conversation with Howard Stern’s coach.  

Dan Heisman is a very personable and approachable NM. Since he was in a waiting mode for his students he offered to go over a game of my choice and give me a free lesson!  He covered a lot of ground and I did my best to jot down everything he had to say so I could share it with you.  I’ll talk about some of the general advice he gave me and finish with some analysis on one of by Badness games.

Activity Safety and Time Management (A.S.T)

Dan’s first bit of advice had to do with making sure my pieces were active . “ Think of it like being a manager. You’ve got four of your who already moved once. The rooks haven’t moved yet. They are like new employees, you need to spend time with them.” Unless there is an obvious tactic, your first priority is to get  your pieces active.

Safety is another consideration that needs to be adhered to. Counting techniques can eliminate most one move blunders.  Knowing which side of the board your opponent is coming after you helps in determining which side to castle sometimes.

Time management was a strong topic Mr. Heisman drilled in me. Though I don’t have some problems with this, he pointed out the difference between what he called Micro Time Management versus Macro Time management. Micro time management is knowing when you can get away with making moves with less time versus using your time for critical positions. He advocates making the most out of the clock during each move. Most of my time management technique falls under the macro heading where I basically lump my playing into targeted time limits in 5 move increments. This discussion lead to the following topic.

Criticality Assessment:

What? This is knowing when a position is critical. “But isn’t this the Holy Grail for us patzers?”  I asked. “How does one develop this skill?”

According to DH, the best to do this is to (1) PLAY BLITZ games and (2) Play over lots of annotated games. Now, he did say that just playing Blitz alone doesn’t do any justice unless you go over your mistakes.  However, you develop a sense on when to spend your time on critical moves and decrease the time you spend on non-critical moves. Check your openings with the book after 3-4 games and see where you need to make improvements and go back for more. Sooner or later you will develop a sense for when critical positions come up. These are worth spending the time on.

Going over annotated games is the other half of this. In his words, “ After you play over hundreds of annotated games, you will have this voice in the back of your head as if it were your father telling you sage advice you never wanted to listen to when you were young. Only this time, you should listen.”  He mentioned that its not a matter of memorization of the games, rather, with good annotations ( the verbose kind for us Class players), you get a better understanding of positions.



Dan didn’t have a good thing to say about CT-ART 3.0. “ How many times in your games do you get to sacrifice a queen?” He suggests John Bain’s book where there are more “removal of the guard” and gradual basic tactics. They may seem simple but getting to the point of really KNOWING these like your multiplication table gives you an opportunity to see the these kind of tactics when they come up in your games. Even if tactical shots only occur in 5% of your games, you are best to know them cold. It works the other way as well. Being able to see tactics coming at you will also save you from tripping up.


Now, on to my Badness game that he graced me with for analysis:

I had white, my opponent played a Benko Gambit. First off, he says “ You play 1.d4 2.c4? You know you need to know the tabias of 10 openings with that.”  Of which I had about 7 (kind of sort of) under my belt given the latest series of posts ( QGA, QGD, Benoni, KID, NI, Grunfeld, and Dutch). The Benko-Gambit was not one of them and I gave it my best shot but underestimated the fact that Black has all his energy on the Queenside. With my passive moves and positional missteps, White was playing a totally defensive game.


Editor's note: Dan Heisman corrected me in stating that he is an NM and not an IM as I previous posted and that he was coaching mostly some adults in my section and one of the kids at my table.